Saturday, 10 November 2007

Love affair with Ikea

Just reading my old broadsheet newspaper online (The Sydney Morning Herald) and came across this article:

Ikea plans new stores, for one in a million

Jano Gibson Urban Affairs Reporter
November 10, 2007

SYDNEY is in the grip of a flat-pack revolution. Every Saturday, up to 15,000 people wander through Ikea's maze-like megastore in Rhodes, filling oversized trolleys with products bearing unpronounceable names. Then they go home and scratch their heads trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

The city's love affair with the Swedish homeware giant saw almost 3 million people converge on its only Sydney store last year. Sales leapt 37 per cent, making it the fastest growing Ikea store in the world.

"It's like a big sports event every Saturday," said the company's Australian boss, Kent Nordin.

Recognising that the shopping experience at Rhodes could soon become an overcrowded nightmare, and keen to attract people who feel Rhodes is too far from home, Mr Nordin is planning a huge expansion program.

He wants Sydney eventually to have four Ikea stores, all bigger than the 25,500 square metres at Rhodes.

The next store will be built in the city's south-east, possibly on the site of the old Tempe tip, on the Princes Highway. The company is also considering areas around St Leonards, in the city's north, and, Liverpool, in the south-west.

"Our rule of thumb, roughly, is one store per million people and, of course in Sydney, with 4 million people, one store is never going to be good enough," Mr Nordin said.

Ikea's global success came down to a simple three-point formula, he said.

"You come out here and you see solutions. We try to show you how your home can work. Then, when you look at the price tag for that shelf or hook, you say, 'I can actually afford to do that.' The third is that you can pick it up and have it today."

Despite Marrickville Council documents revealing that a new store at the remediated tip site could cost $250 million, Mr Nordin rejected suggestions that an expansion would lead to a rise in prices.

Ever since I was about 10 or 11 years old I had a fascination with Ikea. OK not just Ikea but any furniture chain store that came with lovely, colourful brochures in the mail I could browse through for ages. I'm not talking a few minutes but I'd look through it over and over again over the period of the whole year. I in fact have all those Ikea catalogues I collected since 1987!

At one stage Sydney had three or four Ikea stores but now only has one. My mother, sister and I went to the Gordon store when it closed down. I also visited the Moore Park and Blacktown stores.

When the Rhodes store opened it was a really big deal. It was touted as the largest Ikea store in the southern hemisphere. Since Sydney is such a huge place all the Ikeas used to be a fair distance from where I lived but Rhodes was only about a 20min drive from where I lived after I moved out of home. I don't think I have a single friend who doesn't like Ikea!

I remember about a year ago all the Christmas decorations started coming out and I spent ages oohing and ahhing over them. I even bought some pieces which I used for our wedding reception.

I love browsing the 'rejects' corner to see what bargains I can find.

I actually enjoy putting together furniture. Both my parents are very DIY orientated and I think I have definitely inherited this from them. I have fond memories of my first ever visit to Ikea when I was maybe 10 years old and following my parents around with the paper tape measure and little pencil and playing in the ball room with my sister (even though I was a tad too old LOL). More recently, I remember rushing to Ikea to get a big white Expedit bookshelf that was $100 cheaper than the normal price. The crowds were huge and some greedy people even got two. I remember being annoyed and waiting ages for someone to help me load the big heavy boxes into the car. In the back of my mind all I could think of was my sister telling me that that is how 'service' works in Europe. There is none. Because labour costs are so high there are never enough staff members to help you (contrast this with China! hahaha).

I applied for a job with Ikea about a 18 months ago. No, not as a sales assistant but in their design department. They kept me waiting for ages then wrote back to say that the position was withdrawn. I was heart broken. I had studied their catalog. This was before I even knew about the job! I started planning our living room even though it would probably never eventuate but it was still fun to dream. I knew the names of so many brands - Expedit, Billy, Kramfors, Hensvik, Bonde, Leksvik... I drew up floor plans of the various rooms with measurements and little paper cutouts (to scale) of various pieces and played around with them in the room. Actually I've been doing this since I was a kid..

Now I am in Shanghai and not far away from the one and only store here and I have only been there once (right when we first moved in and barely bought anything). What is wrong with me?!

We got the catalog from them in the mail recently and I was really disappointed. Instead of the thick ones I got back home this one was only 30 pages or so. Not only that, you can't get them in store, you have to have them sent to you and I've been waiting for this since May?! Crazy. The good news is that the prices here are about 60-70% of what I was paying back in Australia (which, I calculated using exchange rates and online catalogues from other countries and it was a LOT more than most countries even the UK in some instances!)

Methinks it's time for another visit there. I'll be going on a weekday thanks. I hear from the Lonely Planet (I think) that it is just crazy on weekends.

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